Begnagrad

Begnagrad

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Begnagrad were Slovenia's first claim to rock fame, but they went largely unnoticed. The group's highly original blend of Eastern European folk and complex progressive rock elements may not have been everyone's cup of tea, but the level of energy and the raw feelings conveyed by their first proper album make the music more immediate than one would expect. Recorded by the second lineup of the band (Bratko Bibič, Bogo Pečnikar, Nino De Gleria, Boris Romih, and Ales Rendla), Begnagrad is the foundation for the European avant-folk movement either spearheaded or inspired by Bibič, including Nimal, Débile Menthol, L'Ensemble Rayé, and many Czech bands who took a cue from Begnagrad's way of weaving desperate pathos through seemingly joyous tunes. "Pjan Ska," "Romanticna," and "Narodna -- Kmetska" are all variations on the same accordion theme, pushed to different extremes. The third one is its most twisted incarnation, while the first one, playful and exuberant, plays the role of an anthem of sorts. The "Cosa Nostra" suite, alternating between sweet waltzes and more frantic themes, ranks as a highlight; as does "Zvizgovska Urska" (or "Whistling Ursulla"), the funny whistled-through number that concluded the original LP. The musicianship is exemplary throughout the album, as is the urgency of the playing. Despite the mostly acoustic instrumentation (accordion, clarinet, violin, sax, double bass, drums), the group never sounds "folk" in the traditional sense. The album first came out in 1982 on a Slovenian label. It was reissued on AYAA in 1990 with one bonus track, under the title Konzert for a Broken Dance. The 2003 reissue from MIO Records reinstates the original title and cover, adds three more bonus tracks (one studio, two live), and further adds a 20-minute Quicktime video of a later incarnation of Begnagrad (minus Ales Rendla, plus Zoran Kanduc and Igor Leonardi) playing an outdoor concert. Extensive liner notes finish the CD, making this a first-rate reissue of a first-rate album. Highly recommended.

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